Did Whataburger Create The Original Quarter Pounder?

The Quarter Pounder is synonymous with McDonald's. After all, the Golden Arches has the name trademarked. While it may be one of the iconic fast-food chain's most popular offerings, there could be another restaurant consumers have to thank for its existence. 

What makes a ¼-pound burger so distinctly a ¼-pound burger is obvious: A ¼ pound of 100% beef is used to create the patty (though this comes out to 3 ounces once cooked). That's all there is to it. The magic is in the meat. Although McDonald's is often credited with creating the ¼-pound burger, Whataburger, with its Original #1, may have been the first major fast-food chain to offer one.

Whataburger has over 900 locations across the U.S., with over 700 in Texas. If you ask most Texans, they can probably rattle off what goes on the classic Whataburger Original #1 with pride and without looking at a menu: lettuce, tomato, pickles, diced onions, and mustard. The iconic burger was an original menu offering when Whataburger first opened as a burger stand in Corpus Christi, Texas, on August 8, 1950. The burger initially sold for 25 cents. The price soon rose to 30 cents, and by 1951, the burger cost 35 cents. Back then, that was a bit pricey compared to some of its competitors. (A McDonald's burger was 15 cents, and a White Castle slider was 10 cents.) Nevertheless, Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson knew he was onto something big.

The Whataburger No. 1 was ahead of its time

At the time, the standard amount of ground beef used in fast-food burgers was 2 ounces; The standard bun was 2 ½ inches. Dobson set out to create a burger "that took two hands to hold" and made patrons exclaim, "What a burger!" So, using a ¼-pound patty and a 5-inch bun, he doubled the portions to create the Texas-sized burger. Giving credence to the notion that Whataburger's # 1 was the first of its kind is the fact that hamburger buns of that size were impossible to find. Dobson enlisted Rainbo Bakery, along with another company, to specially create pans just to bake the ginormous buns.  

However, McDonald's wasn't influenced by the "Texas Treasure" but rather by consumer demand when creating the Quarter Pounder, which differs from Whataburger's Original # 1 in that it comes with two slices of cheese, swaps the fresh tomato for ketchup, has a 4-inch sesame-seed bun, and has 70 fewer calories. McDonald's franchisee Al Bernadin satisfied the cravings of customers who wanted more meat than bun when he came up with the Quarter Pounder in 1971. Ironically, A&W later tried to one-up McDonald's with the Third-of-a-Pound Burger, but because of the general public's misunderstanding of fractions, many assumed they were getting ripped off, and it failed.